Leicester survey reveals untapped pool of talent

Asylum-seekers are highly skilled potential employees, claims innovative
research by the National Organisation for Adult Learning in Leicester.

The report shows that 85 per cent of the 121 asylum-seekers surveyed in the
city speak more than one language and have qualifications ranging from O-level
equivalents and vocational diplomas to first and higher degrees.

It also shows that 80 per cent of asylum-seekers were in paid employment
before they came to the UK. Most of these were in skilled occupations,
including doctors, teachers, business managers and electricians.

One of those highlighted was a teacher from Zimbabwe who had both assisted
young people in setting up craft businesses to pay their way through college
and helped run an HIV and Aids education service in rural areas.

Sue Waddington, European development officer of the National Organisation
for Adult Learning and co-author of the report, hopes the research will dispel
some of the myths that hinder informed debate.

She said, "This research demonstrates the wealth of untapped talent
among asylum-seekers in Leicester. The next step is to take action to enable
asylum-seekers, whether they remain in the UK or return to their countries of
origin, to use and develop their skills."

She added, "We know from the Leicester sample that asylum-seekers want
to contribute to the labour market and wider society."

A number of barriers to the employment of asylum-seekers were highlighted in
the survey. Specialist careers advice for asylum-seekers is patchy and they are
not eligible for government-funded training, even if they have been in the UK
for six months.

Deng Yai, employment policy adviser of the Refugee Council, said, "This
research confirms asylum-seekers are as highly qualified as we expected."


By Karen Higginbottom

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